Welcome to this CPA Marketing Complete Guide to Success. CPA, or cost per action, marketing has emerged as an innovative way for entrepreneurs to grow an online business and generate income. In traditional affiliate marketing, you promote products and only earn a commission when a customer actually makes a purchase. This requires moving prospects further down your sales funnel and keeping a close eye on conversion rates.
However, in CPA marketing the model is different. You only get paid when a prospective customer completes a desired action like filling out a form, downloading an eBook or installing an app.
This means that as a CPA marketer, you can earn money straight away without the hassle of selling products directly to consumers. All you have to do is drive qualified traffic to relevant offers through content marketing, social media, ads, etc.
Once a visitor performs the incentivized action on the advertiser’s website, you will receive a predetermined commission – typically $1 to $100 per action. This makes CPA a highly scalable revenue model, as the more traffic you generate, the more actions you’ll monetize.
CPA marketing allows business owners and entrepreneurs to diversify their income streams and experiment with unconventional monetization techniques. In this blog, we’ll explore how you can leverage cost-per-action campaigns to generate a profitable new stream of residuals for your business.
Understanding CPA Marketing Models
1. Cost per Sale (CPS): The Original CPA Model
One of the earliest and most traditional forms of CPA marketing is cost per sale, commonly abbreviated as CPS. In the CPS model, advertisers pay affiliates a commission whenever their promotion results in an actual purchase.
Choosing the Right Products to Promote
The key to success with CPS campaigns is picking the right products to promote. You want to focus on offers that are:
• A good fit for your audience. Your readers and followers are much more likely to buy something that genuinely interests or benefits them. Take the time to research offers that align with your niche and the problems your audience faces.
• Backed by reputable companies. Be selective with the brands you choose to work with. Avoid promoting sketchy or fly-by-night products that could damage your reputation.
• Low refund rates. Select products with a good track record and solid customer satisfaction. The lower the refund rate, the more money you’ll keep from each sale.
• Recurring purchases. Look for brands and offers with recurring billing models that allow customers to re-order on a monthly or annual basis. This introduces the possibility of residual commission income over time.
By choosing CPS offers with these qualities in mind, you’ll maximize your earnings potential from cost-per-sale campaigns while minimizing risk. So do your research, start small and scale up your CPS promotions as you discover which products convert best for your audience.
2. Cost per Click (CPC)
Making Money From Mice: Understanding Cost Per Click
In the cost-per-click (CPC) revenue model, affiliates earn commission based on the number of clicks their ads or offers generate. Every time a visitor clicks one of your links and is taken to the advertiser’s website, you are paid a pre-agreed amount – usually between $0.10 to $2 per click.
Earning Based on Clicks
While clicks don’t always correlate with sales, CPC offers several advantages for affiliates:
• You start earning money the moment traffic clicks, not when purchases happen. This speeds up your time to the first commission.
• CPC campaigns require little upfront work. Once you’ve set up your ads or landing pages, most of your earnings are essentially passive.
• CPC offers allow you to experiment quickly. You can launch several micro-campaigns for different advertisers to see which generate the most clicks and revenue.
The Significance of Targeted Traffic
However, the key to success with CPC campaigns is attracting targeted traffic that is likely to actually engage with the offer. Clicks from irrelevant or low-quality sources will earn you little money and potentially get your account banned.
So when promoting CPC offers:
• Use niche-specific landing pages that appeal to your specific audience. Generic pages will not convert highly targeted visitors.
• Only promote to groups truly interested in the offer. The more relevant your promotions, the higher the chance of clicks translating to sales.
• Leverage platforms where your followers spend time. Place your ads on networks like Pinterest, Instagram or niche forums that match your target demographic.
By focusing on targeting the right people with the right message, you give yourself the best chance of earning decent commission rates from cost-per-click campaigns. But always balance relevance with testing – start small, measure performance and adjust your approach as you gain more data and experience.
3. Cost per Installation (CPI)
In the cost-per-install (CPI) CPA model, advertisers pay affiliates a commission for every installation of their mobile app that results from your promotion. This revenue model has become incredibly popular for growing app user acquisition – especially for new apps looking to gain a foothold.
Getting Paid Per Install
As an affiliate marketer, here’s how CPI campaigns work:
• You promote a mobile app offer through your website, blog, social platforms, etc.
• Visitors click your link and are taken to the app store page for that specific app.
• If a visitor decides to install the app after seeing your promotion, you get paid a predetermined amount – typically around $0.10 to $5 per installation.
• The app publisher then tracks installs and pays you a commission for each one attributed to your ad or link.
The Popularity of CPI for App Promotion
CPI has become the go-to revenue model for app user acquisition and growth hacking for several reasons:
• It’s simple for both parties. Affiliates just need to drive installs, while app makers only pay for users they actually acquire. There’s no need to track complicated conversion funnels.
• It’s scalable. The more targeted traffic you can drive to an app store listing, the more potential installs and commissions you’ll earn. There’s no limit on your earnings potential.
• It’s low-risk. Affiliates are only paid when a user takes the desired action (installing the app). There’s no risk of promoting a poorly-converting offer.
• It focuses on what matters. What app makers really want are more installs – not just clicks or visits. CPI directly compensates affiliates for the actions that drive real value.
If you have an audience of mobile users, exploring CPI offers could be a smart way to generate residual income. Just be selective, focusing your promotions around apps that closely match the interests of your followers. The more targeted your approach, the more installs – and money – you’re likely to generate.
So start small, measure performance closely and scale up your most effective CPI campaigns over time.
4. Cost per Action (CPA)
Cost-per-action (CPA) campaigns are the most flexible form of CPA marketing, compensating affiliates based on any measurable action a user completes. Marketers are paid for driving specific outcomes like:
• Form submissions
• Trial starts
• Survey completions
• And more!
As an affiliate, here’s how CPA works:
• You promote an offer where the advertiser will pay you per a specified action.
• Visitors see your ad, link or recommendation and visit the advertiser’s Landing Page.
• If a visitor completes the desired action – filling out a form, signing up for a trial, etc. – you earn a predetermined commission.
• The advertiser then tracks completed actions and pays your commission for each one attributed to your promotion.
The Flexibility and Risk-Free Nature of CPA
CPA campaigns offer the ultimate flexibility in two key ways:
Flexibility in What You Promote: CPA allows you to monetize almost any actionable offer. Whether an eBook download, survey completion or email opt-in, CPA gives you freedom to make money by promoting offers that match your audience’s interests.
Flexibility in Payment Structure: With CPA, you’re only paid when an action is completed. This removes risk for the affiliate – you never “lose” by promoting a non-converting offer.
CPA’s ‘risk-free’ nature opens up two powerful opportunities:
Experiment widely – You’re free to promote many different offers to find your highest paying campaigns.
Focus on value – Since the payout is tied to actions, there’s no incentive to push worthless or low-quality products. You’re rewarded for promoting offers that create real value for users.
In summary, CPA’s flexibility – both in which offers you promote and how you’re paid – makes it a extremely powerful marketing model. The freedom it provides creates the conditions for both innovation and delivering true user value.
Finding CPA Opportunities
One of the easiest ways to find high-quality CPA offers is by joining major affiliate networks. These platforms aggregate hundreds of CPA deals from diverse advertisers, making it simple to identify the best opportunities that fit your skills and audience.
I recommend signing up for accounts with several networks to cast a wide net, including:
• MaxBounty – One of the largest networks with thousands of CPA deals across multiple categories. Known for high payout rates and reliable payments.
• PeerFly – Focuses on digital, mobile and eCommerce offers. User-friendly interface and helpful resources for beginners.
• ClickDealer – Particularly strong in the health, finance and business verticals. Dedicated managers to assist with campaign set-up and optimization.
The Benefits of Affiliate Networks
The main benefits of joining multiple affiliate networks are:
• Access to more offers. The more networks you’re on, the greater your chances of finding the perfect high-paying CPA deal for your audience.
• Increased deal choices. Each network specializes in different niches and geographies, providing diverse advertiser relationships.
• Competition. The ability to pitch deals to multiple networks drives up commission rates and incentive for advertisers to work with you.
• Support. Networks offer important resources like tracking software, creative templates, and help from dedicated program managers.
So start by signing up for free accounts with MaxBounty, PeerFly and ClickDealer. Browse through their available offers, focusing on those that align well with your audience and strengths.
From there, you can fine-tune your network selection by joining additional niche-specific platforms or those that prioritize your preferred types of CPA deals (CPI, CPS, etc.). The more targeted your approach, the higher your potential earnings – so be selective from the start!
Niche-Specific CPA Offers
While large affiliate networks give you exposure to a wide range of CPA offers, focusing your search on niche-specific deals can be hugely advantageous. Tailoring your promotions to a targeted audience allows you to:
• Capture buyer intent. Promoting an offer that directly relates to what your niche audience already wants increases the chances of desired actions and conversions.
• Achieve higher commissions. Niche-targeted promotions typically convert at higher rates, allowing you to negotiate better payouts from advertisers.
Thus, seeking out CPA offers that closely match your niche or audience is often a wise strategy. Here are some examples:
For a Parenting Blog:
• Baby products CPS/CPA offers for diapers, wipes, toys, clothing, etc.
• eBook downloads on topics like potty training, co-sleeping or fussy eaters.
For a Fitness Website:
• CPI campaigns for health and fitness apps
• CPA deals for meal planning tools, workout programs and supplements.
For an eLearning Site:
• CPS offers for online courses in your niche subjects
• CPA promotions for educational apps, software and resources.
By combining the broad reach of affiliate networks with targeted niche outreach, you expand your opportunities while focusing your energy where it will produce the highest rewards: on offers that deeply resonate with your specific audience.
So as you explore CPA marketing, begin by identifying your key niche or audience. Then seek out deals that align precisely with their interests and needs. The more targeted your promotions, the more likely they are to convert – translating into higher commissions for you.
Look for opportunities on networks, Google your niche keywords plus “CPA” and directly contact relevant businesses. With a little time and effort, you’ll find CPA offers that act as a perfect match for your audience – putting you on the path to profitability!
Directly Contacting Advertisers
While joining major affiliate networks gives you exposure to thousands of CPA offers, some lucrative niche opportunities may only be available by contacting advertisers directly. Reaching out and forming 1-on-1 relationships can yield several benefits:
Higher Commission Rates
Advertisers save on network fees when working with affiliates directly, allowing them to offer higher commission percentages. Negotiating one-on-one also gives you more leverage to ask for a better payout that reflects the value you bring.
By approaching businesses that operate in your niche, you can help them craft highly targeted CPA campaigns around their most relevant offers for your specific audience. This increases the chances of success for both parties.
Many attractive niche deals only become available by contacting companies direct. You face less affiliates competing for these more bespoke opportunities, boosting your odds of profitability.
Forming direct relationships enables you to develop a real working connection with advertisers over time. This breed loyalty and can lead to recurring commissions from repeat promotions.
To start reaching out:
• Find businesses in your niche that could potentially benefit from CPA marketing.
• Draft a personalized email introducing yourself, your audience and how you can help drive relevant actions at scale.
• Offer case studies or proof you can deliver results.
• Propose a trial campaign to prove your value.
• Negotiate the best commission rate that reflects the value you’ll provide.
Selecting the Right CPA Offer
The key to success with CPA marketing is choosing the right offers to promote. To maximize your earnings while protecting your reputation, follow these guidelines when selecting CPA deals:
Match Your Audience
Only promote offers that are truly relevant for your readers. Take the time to research the product or service thoroughly to ensure it solves a real problem or satisfies an authentic need for your target market. The closer the match, the higher your conversion rates will likely be.
Do Your Due Diligence
Conduct thorough background checks on any brand you consider promoting. Verify they have a solid track record, good customer reviews and a legitimate business presence. Avoid young or fly-by-night companies that could tarnish your reputation.
Check Commission Rates
While payouts vary, compare commission percentages between offers to identify those with the most lucrative terms. Negotiate the best rates possible that reflect the value you’ll provide through targeted promotions.
Align With Your Values
Only promote products and services you’re comfortable endorsing to your audience. If an offer doesn’t feel right or goes against your principles, avoid it – even if the commissions are high. Your integrity is worth more.
Ask Tough Questions
Don’t be afraid to inquire about refund rates, return policies, customer support, and any other potential issues. The more you know about an offer’s pros and cons, the better you can position it – or decide to pass on it entirely.
Test With Small Campaigns
When first trying a new offer, start with a conservative budget and limited promotions. This allows you to monitor conversions and refine your strategy before fully committing resources.
In summary, selecting the right CPA offers to promote requires balancing research, alignment and your own instincts. Always put your audience and values first, while focusing on opportunities with the highest revenue potential aligned with your strengths and expertise. Let me know if you have any other questions!
Building an Effective CPA Marketing Campaign A. Setting Clear Goals
Before launching any CPA campaign, the first crucial step is defining specific, measurable goals. Proper goal setting establishes a framework for all subsequent decisions and actions, helping to guide your campaign towards profitability.
Here are some common goal types to consider when setting CPA campaign objectives:
• Total number of actions
For example, you may set a goal of achieving 200 app installations or 500 email signups from your promotions within a given time period.
• Action frequency
Instead of an absolute number, you may establish a goal of X actions per day/week. This can ensure steady performance over the lifetime of your promotions.
• Lead quality over quantity
Rather than fixating on the largest number, set a quality threshold for your leads and stick to it. This is especially important for action types like form submissions where low-quality leads waste money.
• Testing multiple goals
When first starting out, aim for modest goals that allow you to test and learn, while lowering risks. As your campaigns improve, raise your targets progressively.
Once you’ve set clear, measurable goals for your campaigns around variables like total actions, frequency and lead quality:
• Track key metrics to assess progress
• Adjust promotions and creative assets that are underperforming
• Double down on tactics that prove effective
• Refine offers or landing pages that fall short of objectives
• Celebrate and learn from successes, then reset goals higher!
In the end, establishing and regularly revisiting your CPA goals is an ongoing process of testing, measuring performance, adjusting variables and improving results over time. But starting every campaign by defining targeted objectives grounded in data and priorities will put you on the right track from the very beginning.
Choosing the Right Traffic Source
The traffic sources you select to promote your CPA offer can make or break your campaign’s success. Different platforms cater to distinct audiences, so it’s important to choose channels that:
Align closely with your target market
Allow you to finely tune promotions around your specific offer
Here are some of the best traffic sources for CPA marketing campaigns:
• Social media – Sites like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest allow you to precisely target people based on demographics, interests and behaviours. If they match your offer well, social ads can be highly effective.
• Search engines – Through search engine marketing (SEM) tactics like pay-per-click (PPC) ads and search engine optimization (SEO), you can reach people actively seeking solutions to the problems your offer solves.
• Referral networks – If your audience consists of other affiliate marketers and influencers, campaigns on platforms like ShareASale and PeerFly can generate high-converting specialized traffic.
• Forums and communities – Promoting in online communities that match your niche topic can get your offer in front of a highly targeted, often engaged audience. However, be mindful not to come across as spammy.
The best approach is to A/B test campaigns across multiple traffic sources, monitoring which generates the highest action rates and commissions relative to their costs. Over time, double down on the 1-2 channels that prove most effective – while raising your goals and optimizing promotions based on what generates results.
Designing an Attractive Landing Page
Your landing page design plays a critical role in the success of any CPA campaign – especially offers based on form submissions, downloads and other non-purchase actions. Here are tips for creating high-converting pages that drive the desired outcomes:
• Use a clear, straightforward call to action. Tell visitors exactly what you want them to do using simple, actionable language like “Get Instant Access” or “Subscribe Now”.
• Include relevant content that educates and engages. Explain the benefits of taking the desired action in a compelling, value-based way to motivate visitors.
• Make the form as short and painless as possible. Only request the absolute minimum information necessary to process the CPA payout. Use pre-filled fields where appropriate.
• Provide helpful resources and bonuses. Offering extra value like checklists, eBooks or special reports can incentivize visitors to complete the form.
• Use high-resolution images and an attractive design. A visually pleasing page that matches the professionalism of the offer will put visitors at ease.
• Ensure the page is optimized for mobile. The majority of your traffic may come from smartphones, so test your form on multiple devices.
• Always test and improve. Collect feedback from visitors, analyze conversion metrics and A/B test variations of your page design to steadily ratchet up performance.
When it comes to maximizing conversions, your landing page is often the difference between earning commissions and coming up empty. So invest the time upfront to create an experience that persuasively guides high-quality visitors through completing the desired action with as little friction as possible. Your CPA payout depends on it!
Tracking and Optimization
One of the biggest advantages of CPA marketing is that it provides simple, quantifiable metrics to evaluate performance and guide improvements. To maximize your commissions:
• Implement Tracking – Use tools like Google Analytics or custom URL tags to measure click-through rates, action completion rates, and overall conversions. This data forms the foundation for optimizing your campaigns.
• Analyze Performance – Dive into your metrics on a regular basis. Identify underperforming tactics, offerings, ad creative, etc. Also, celebrate what’s working well!
• Test Changes – Make data-driven adjustments based on your findings. Try modifying landing pages, swapping in new ad images, or promoting different offers from the same advertiser. Then re-measure impacts.
• Iterate Based on Results – Whatever changes drive an increase in actions should be further expanded, while tactics that underperform should be cut. This process of continual testing + iteration will steadily optimize campaigns over time.
For example, you might:
• Discover form submissions dip on weekends → Implement an automated retargeting campaign for those visitors.
• Notice a 15% higher completion rate for short-form options → Shorten all your landing page forms.
• Realize CPA rates double for affiliate-exclusive offers → Negotiate more exclusivity with your top networks.
By integrating tracking, analyzing data religiously, testing changes systematically and iterating based strictly on results, you can transform even mediocre CPA campaigns into well-oiled revenue engines. The right metrics and continuous improvement will ultimately determine the success – or failure – of your monetization strategy.
So start measuring today. Identify one campaign you can instrument to collect more data on. Then devise at least one test you can run next week based on a hypothesis. Even small experiments are a step towards optimization – so take action and watch your commissions grow!
Driving Traffic to CPA Offers
Free Traffic Sources
Some of the most effective – and cost-efficient – traffic sources for CPA offers are free and organic in nature. These channels can drive high-quality, targeted visitors through a commitment to valuable content and regular audience engagement.
I recommend focusing organic efforts around:
• Social Media Platforms – Build up a following on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and niche networks relevant to your audience. Then regularly share educational, timely posts that also subtly promote your offers.
• Your Own Blog – Create an authority site focused on topics related to the problems your offers solve. Publish long-form, curriculum-based content that builds trust while recommending CPA deals where relevant.
• Industry Forums – Contribute often to online communities your audience already participates in. Post valuable answers, resources and guides that also indirectly point to your recommended CPA deals.
To succeed with organic traffic:
• Develop a Content Calendar – Map out the types of long-form, visual and social media content you’ll create on a routine basis. Make it a mix of educational, entertaining and promotional material.
• Focus on Audience Value – Everything you publish should be centred around benefits for your readers, not just promoting offers. Give genuine value first, then recommendations will be more welcome.
With consistency and a dedication to creating valuable, audience-first content, organic channels can deliver a loyal, targeted stream of free traffic for your CPA campaigns literally for years. The investment upfront in content and community building will pay huge dividends if you stick with it!
Paid Traffic Sources
While organic traffic channels take time and effort to develop, paid traffic sources allow you to quickly ramp up commissions from CPA offers – especially during the launch of new campaigns. Here are some effective paid options:
• Google Ads – Leveraging Google’s targeting abilities, you can reach people actively searching for solutions relevant to your offers. Bid on strategic keywords to show ads to high-intent prospects ready to take action.
• Facebook/Instagram Ads – Facebook’s powerful targeting capabilities give you the tools to find the ideal customers for any CPA offer. Choose interests, behaviours, demographics, locations and more to zero in on users likely to convert.
• Native Advertising – Placing brand-safe ads that match the style and format of the publications they appear in, native ads enjoy high engagement and conversion rates. Focus on media your audience regularly consumes.
The key benefits of paid traffic are:
• Precision – By defining audiences based on demographics, interests and behaviours, you can send your offer only to people most likely to perform the desired action. This increases conversion rates.
• Speed – Compared to organic channels, paid traffic sources allow you to scale up commissions rapidly by simply raising your budget.
• Testing – By comparing results across different targeting options, placements and creatives, paid campaigns give you reams of data to optimize future promotions.
So start small, monitoring closely the payouts versus acquisition costs of your initial paid campaigns. Then scale up spending on platforms and audiences that prove most fruitful while cutting losses quickly where commissions fail to justify the costs.
Over time, combine free/organic and paid tactics into a blended strategy that maximizes the strengths of each approach:
• Use paid traffic to identify high-converting audiences/placements.
• Target similar demographics through organic content/community.
• Reinvest a portion of commissions into refining paid campaigns.
• Continually double down on what drives the highest returns.
Avoiding Common Pitfalls in CPA Marketing
While CPA marketing presents many opportunities for profit, there are also some common pitfalls affiliates often run into:
• Promoting the wrong offers – Focusing on high commission rates rather than offers with true relevance and alignment will degrade conversion rates over time. Only promote products and services that directly benefit your audience.
• Focusing on cost per click – Chasing the lowest CPC without considering conversion rates can waste budget quickly. Balance low rates with a proven ability to drive desirable actions at scale.
• Ignoring landing page optimization – Failing to create high converting pages that educate and motivate visitors to complete the desired action is a surefire way to limit your income potential. Invest in landing page testing and improvement.
• Overlooking offer legitimacy – Promoting shady, unethical or fly-by-night offers can give your whole business a bad reputation. Always thoroughly vet brands before promoting them.
• Not tracking results – Without proper analytics in place, you’ll have no way of identifying underperforming tactics, segments or creative elements that require optimization. Implement tracking solutions as soon as possible.
• Getting lazy with testing – Only by systematically testing changes – like page layouts, offer placements or targeting options – can you truly fine-tune campaigns. A rigorous experimentation regimen yields the highest rewards.
To avoid these pitfalls:
• Only promote offers with high relevance
• Balance CPC with proven action rates
• Prioritize landing page testing and iteration
• Thoroughly vet all brands you work with
• Implement comprehensive tracking solutions
• Institutionalize a program of ongoing split testing
With discipline, the right strategies and ongoing testing/optimization, you can avoid common CPA marketing mistakes and build campaigns that deliver sustainable, profitable results for years. The keys are focus, alignment and a spirit of constant improvement driven by data and experience.
Succeeding in CPA Marketing
While proper strategies and tactics are important, the real keys to succeeding with CPA marketing often come down to the basics of any endeavour:
Expertise. Developing true authority in your niche, where you become a trusted advisor to both advertisers and readers. Your audience values your recommendations because they know you understand their needs deeply.
Knowledge. Relentless learning about your field – from changes in the CPA landscape to new techniques to better advice for your readership. Success comes from those willing to constantly grow their skillset and share wisdom with others.
Persistence. The ability to test new campaigns, track results, tweak variables and test again – hundreds of times – until strategies emerge that produce consistent results. Success is a product of grit, perseverance and never giving up.
Networking. Building relationships with other marketers, publishers, CPA networks and brands provides opportunities to connect audiences, form partnerships and gain insider knowledge that grows your business. Value network members highly.
Adaptability. Staying on top of industry trends, technical advances and shifts in audience preferences. Each new development presents both risks and opportunities – capitalize on the latter.
Service. Remember that true success stems from a desire to solve problems and serve others well. CPA campaigns should enable you to share your knowledge in ever more valuable ways, improving the lives of those you reach.
So while strategies, tactics and testing will improve over time, ground your CPA marketing in expertise, relationships and a desire to serve a higher purpose. Stay teachable and resilient in the face of setbacks. View any failure as a chance to learn something new that gets you one step closer. The journey to profitability is seldom a straight line – it’s a spiralling ascent fueled by knowledge, experience and always putting people first.
In summary, CPA marketing provides an innovative way for entrepreneurs, bloggers and online marketers to generate an additional stream of residual income. By promoting carefully vetted offers to a targeted audience, you can profit from driving specific, measurable actions at scale.
While strategies like choosing the right offers, optimizing landing pages and driving valuable traffic are certainly important, the real keys to succeeding in this space come down to developing deep expertise in your niche, a mindset of relentless learning and adaptation, and a desire to provide genuine value to others through your promotions.
If done correctly, CPA campaigns can become profitable revenue engines that produce commissions for years on end. But success requires a spirit of experimentation, a willingness to fail fast and improve rapidly, and an unshakeable focus on serving your readership first before chasing the next “hot” offer.
The opportunities are certainly there for the taking. So if you have an audience that could benefit from relevant CPA promotions, I encourage you to start small, track everything and refine relentlessly – all while grounded in expertise, insight and a passion for truly helping others through your recommendations.
With the right mix of strategy, experimentation and heart, CPA marketing can become an incredible way to grow your business, share your knowledge and make an impact on the world. The journey starts with a single step, so take that first step today